Citation for Sunanda Basu

Sunanda Basu, winner of AGU’s 2019 Ambassador Award
Sunanda Basu

Dr. Sunanda Basu has strived tirelessly to promote the talent pool and diversity of early-career scientists across the globe, advocated nationally and internationally for space weather science, and reinvigorated international collaborations in emerging nations.

In service to the community, Sunanda cochaired the Scientific Organizing Committee for the International Heliophysical Year−Space Weather Science and Education Workshop (Ethiopia) under the auspices of the United Nations Basic Space Science Initiative. The workshop was followed by a meeting in Zambia, culminating in the prestigious international AGU Chapman Conference in Ethiopia, the first of its kind in space science in Africa. She served on the Scientific Committee on Solar-Terrestrial Physics’s Long-Range Planning Committee and executive committees for the International Union of Radio Science (URSI), chaired the Climate and Weather of the Sun-Earth System (CAWSES) Steering Committee, and was an active leader of the National Science Foundation’s Coupling, Energetics, and Dynamics of Atmospheric Regions (CEDAR) program. At AGU she was chair of the Development Board and served on the Board of Directors and award committees.

Sunanda’s philanthropic contributions are of particular note. She and her late husband endowed the Basu International Early Career Award for scientists in developing countries, recognizing outstanding contributions to research in Sun-Earth systems science. This AGU Space Physics and Aeronomy section prize has recognized talented scientists from China, India, Peru, South Africa, and Nigeria. She later endowed the U.S. version of this award, followed by an URSI early-career endowment and two awards for early-career scientists living and working in Africa. The African Geophysical Society bestowed a fellowship in recognition of her substantial contribution to Earth and space sciences in Africa.

Her service and philanthropy took place in parallel with her excelling as an outstanding international scientist, representing the core of AGU’s mission. The impact of her scientific leadership is recognized by her general lectures at international associations, such as “Impacts of Extreme Solar Events” at the URSI General Assembly, the International Association of Geomagnetism and Aeronomy Association Lecture on CAWSES science in Toulouse, and the CEDAR Distinguished Scientist Lecture. Her research into the ionosphere, its structure, and its irregularities has huge societal relevance associated with impacts on communications and satellite navigation. Sunanda contributed to the inception and very foundation of the U.S. National Space Weather Program Strategic Plan, now recognized at the highest levels in the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Sunanda is an ambassador in every sense and a worthy recipient of AGU’s Ambassador Award through her service and scientific leadership, her tireless and unwavering promotion of international scientific talent, and her advancing awareness of societal impacts of space weather.

—Tim Fuller-Rowell, University of Colorado Boulder


It is a humbling experience to receive the AGU Ambassador Award, and for this I am very grateful to AGU. My nominator, Tim Fuller-Rowell, and my colleagues Louis Lanzerotti, Roderick Heelis, and Archana Bhattacharya all took time from their busy schedules to write letters of support. For this I owe them a big debt of gratitude.

I have now spent about 4 decades in the United States coming from my native India. At first, my interest was to be immersed in science and use my insights to help others. Gradually, my passion evolved into helping the international community of scientists and, particularly, the next generation in whatever capacity I can. Growing up in a developing country and moving to the United States as a National Research Council postdoctoral scientist, I was able to realize how lucky I was to get this opportunity and how important it is to share my good fortune with others. My mother, if she were alive, would be, like AGU, 100 years old this year, and she instilled in me an obligation to try to meet the educational needs of young people with lesser opportunities.

My science and my life were a partnership with my late husband and colleague, Santimay Basu. In addition, both of us had been educated in India. Thus, with our global mindset and passion to help the next generation, we were able to endow through AGU annual early-career awards for scientists from developing countries within the space physics and aeronomy community, starting in 2008. Santi and I had spent our entire careers involved in space weather research and studying the societal relevance of the associated impacts on satellite-based communication and navigation systems. By definition this research was global in scope and lent itself well to involving young scientists from developing nations. Tim Fuller- Rowell has provided a lively commentary of our forays into other parts of the world. Suffice it to say that being able to enhance the size and diversity of AGU’s talent pool has been an award unto itself. Being recognized with the Ambassador Award is the icing on the cake!

—Sunanda Basu, National Science Foundation, Alexandria, Va., retired

Citation for Alik Ismail-Zadeh

Alik Ismail-Zadeh, winner of AGU’s 2019 Ambassador Award
Alik Ismail-Zadeh

Dr. Ismail-Zadeh has the requisite research record, citations, and visiting professorships and fellowships that we expect of high-performing members of our fields. He is that and much more.

His scientific work is truly interdisciplinary, involving applied mathematics, geophysics, natural hazards, science diplomacy, and history across regions from the central Apennines to the Tibetan Himalayas. His engagement and leadership across the national and international geophysical scientific community are immense: He has helped promote geosciences from Earth observations and applications in the atmospheric, climate, and hydrological sciences to volcanology and space weather for the United Nations (UN) Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the World Meteorological Organization, the Group on Earth Observations, and others. More broadly, he has supported disaster risk assessment and management efforts for the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs and the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, including for controlling underground nuclear explosions through the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization. In addition, he has initiated a number of outreach and education efforts, including the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics (IUGG) Science Grants, Science Education, Science Publication, and Science Policy programs.

Dr. Ismail-Zadeh’s impact is long lasting. In one illustration, when he started the work on the formation of AGU’s Natural Hazards focus group in 2009, only a few professed interest. Today, the Natural Hazards section unites thousands of researchers. To wit, both IUGG and AGU have selected issues of natural hazards and disasters as key foci of their centennial scientific themes and celebrations.

Two telling statements from other highly recognized researchers in our fields reflect on Dr. Ismail-Zadeh’s singular characteristics: “What has been achieved in these areas has been due in no small measure, to Alik’s inputs and unique qualities. His efforts are tireless and is characterized by a willingness to use his own time in order to save yours.…above all, I value his mature judgment and guidance.” And “the sense of pride about his upbringing and family truly shows the human values he cherishes. Judging from his passion and commitment to our profession, this also reflects his feelings and unqualified commitment towards his scientific family, which has made him an ideal ambassador for Earth and Space sciences.”

There are many more such sentiments. Dr. Ismail-Zadeh’s contributions have been “seismic” on many levels. His formal recognition as an ambassador is a credit to the vision of AGU and most significantly attests to the power of employing science to help secure the safety and sustainability of our societies and systems.

—Roger S. Pulwarty, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Boulder, Colo.


I am honored to receive an AGU Ambassador Award and am grateful to Roger Pulwarty for nominating me and to Harsh Gupta, Yuan Tseh Lee, Özlem Adiyaman Lopes, and Soroosh Soroshian for supporting the nomination. I am honored twice to receive the award in 2019, the year of the AGU Centennial and my 25-year membership in the Union.

Graduating as a mathematician, I moved to geophysics and dedicated my life to studies of dynamics of the lithosphere and mantle and their manifestation in sedimentary basin evolution and, later, in earthquakes and volcanic activities. It was the time of eureka, when scientific discoveries brought satisfaction, enjoyment, and happiness. The beginning of the 21st century, however, changed my professional life from pure science to science for society. After the 2004 great Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunamis, I asked myself, “What is the value of the science I am doing, if this science cannot protect people against disasters? What is a missing link between science and society?” My scientific adviser and colleague V. Keilis-Borok liked to say that “a scientist is not merely a person who conducts scientific research; a scientist is a person who cannot live without doing so.” So true…I would only add that a scientist is a person who should help society to improve well-being.

“An instant understanding, the efficiency of thought and action, and a good feeling that comes when the like-minded people work together…” (F. Press, as quoted by V. I. Keilis-Borok in One Hundred Reasons to be a Scientist, p. 124, Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics, Trieste, Italy, 2004). For the past 2 decades, I have tried to work together with natural and social scientists and engineers in solving challenging problems of society, including disaster risk reduction, and to speak to representatives of industry and international nongovernmental and intergovernmental organizations as well as to national and regional policy makers to convince them that science is available and ready to be used in their daily activities to benefit humanity. What brings me the biggest satisfaction after scientific discoveries are the results of my voluntary work in various capacities on behalf of AGU, the European Geosciences Union, IUGG, and the International Science Council. Creating new knowledge and delivering it to society, being an ambactus of the scientific community, and bridging nations via science are my credo. I am pleased that AGU recognizes the contribution to service to the Earth and Space science community and science policy leadership with the award and happy to join AGU Ambassadors.

—Alik Ismail-Zadeh, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Germany; also at Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow

Citation for Margaret Leinen 

Margaret Leinen, winner of AGU’s 2019 Ambassador Award
Margaret Leinen

Dr. Margaret Leinen’s insightful and bold leadership, enduring scientific contributions, national and international impacts, and focus on quality and equity are virtually unique in our modern society of researchers, educators, and policy designers. She has played many roles in important institutions, bringing a powerful integrative mind-set to her myriad positions in professional organizations while remaining a champion of high-quality, societally relevant inquiry into how best to approach our future as a global society. She has conducted excellent research, has administered programs empowering cutting-edge scientific inquiries, and has been intimately involved in designing national and international portfolios that provide financial support for basic and applied research. Leinen is a trendsetter on multiple issues at the interface of science and society.

Leinen’s influence has significantly enhanced organizations in academia, government, the private sector, and world policy-making bodies. Throughout all her work, she brings her considerable intellect and gracious generosity to ensure that all parties are enfranchised and engaged. Her work at the University of Rhode Island, the National Science Foundation, Climos, the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, other institutions such as the State Department, and now as the director of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and vice chancellor at the University of California, San Diego, is replete with examples of her tenacious and unrelenting positive approach to provide cutting-edge solutions over the years. As but one specific example, her multiyear terms as part of AGU leadership as president (and associated offices) resulted in new policies that drew long-overdue attention to misbehaviors associated with harassment and bullying. Under Leinen’s leadership, such actions were classified as “scientific misconduct,” thereby linking—for the first time in the geosciences—professional and personal (mis)conduct.

A common thread of Leinen’s accomplishments is her laudable ability to be involved in somewhat tense situations, capture the essence of the debate, and then offer tractable solutions. She is a prime example of what it means to be a true ambassador, whether addressing issues related to selection of sites for global change research in the early Joint Global Ocean Flux Study or the participation of underrepresented racial and ethnic groups in ocean sciences. She offers many examples as a role model for women scientists, and indeed for all scientists, in promoting efforts to increase participation of women and minorities in the geosciences.

Our world of geosciences is a better place because of Margaret Leinen.

—Richard W. Murray, Woods Holes Oceanographic Institution, Scituate, Mass.; and John R. Delaney, University of Washington, Seattle


What a privilege to be among the 2019 Ambassador Awardees! I have been a member of AGU for over 40 years (time flies when you are having fun). During that time I have watched AGU grow from an organization that was primarily about publishing important journals for our fields—and organizing an annual meeting—to an organization that is committed to enhancing every aspect of members’ educational, research, and professional experiences. And just in time. The cultural and organizational structure of our science in the past is no longer appropriate for a diverse, international, interdisciplinary community of scientists that must respond to urgent calls for solutions to vexingly complex problems as well as generate basic scientific discovery at the frontiers. The human impact on the planet—whether a result of how many of us there are or a result of what we transform and add to the air, sea, and land or a result of what we remove—is straining the basic habitability of Earth and results in demands for new knowledge and new approaches.

These demands are calling all of us to rethink the way we educate Earth and space scientists and communicate with the public. We are also being asked to break barriers of participation so that innovative ideas from everyone and everywhere can be incorporated into our thinking. We are being asked to engage those outside of our fields to bring creative ideas and connections from other disciplines. Our universities are rushing to try to keep up with this transformation. Our companies place a premium on being nimble and creative. Our governments are trying to develop less bureaucratic approaches.

With AGU’s students, educators, researchers, business, and government, as well as our large international membership, AGU represents many human resources to generate geoscience knowledge. But AGU is also being challenged to serve this diverse membership during a time of incredible global and cultural change. Being an ambassador for our fields has never been more important. We who know and understand Earth and space science need to ensure that we reach out to all possible participants and partners to bring them into this commitment to a sustainable future. We also need to ensure that all can participate in an equitable way.  I know that there are many AGU ambassadors out there and hope that this award can begin to show them the importance of their work.

—Margaret Leinen, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, Calif.

Citation for Connie Millar

Connie Millar, winner of AGU’s 2019 Ambassador Award
Connie Millar

Dr. Connie Millar, who is fluent in genetics, paleoecology, forest ecology, climatology, glacial geology, landscape ecology, and wildlife biology, consistently integrates these disciplines to reveal insights about the dynamic biogeography of mountain ecosystems. As a scientific ambassador, she has built a community in mountain science and has catalyzed climate change adaptation on federal lands.

Connie’s 2007 paper “Climate Change and Forests of the Future: Managing in the Face of Uncertainty” was recognized by the Ecological Society of America (ESA) in 2015 as “one of the most notable papers ever published” in an ESA journal (i.e., since 1920). In Science in 2015, in “Temperate Forest Health in an Era of Emerging Megadisturbance,” Connie and coauthor Nate Stephenson outline how her research has turned traditional forest management on its head. Combining deep understanding of paleontology and genetics with observations of recent forest diebacks, they explain that there is no “ideal natural forest” to restore, and instead, managers must employ a tool kit combining “resistance,” “resilience,” and “realignment,” including identifying regions of climate refugia and facilitating species change and adaptation. Connie pioneered the needed multidisciplinary research in these ecosystems for global change, including founding and fostering collaborations through interdisciplinary groups such as the Consortium for Integrated Climate Research in Western Mountains and the Global Observation Research Initiative in Alpine environments, to provide the foundation for needed guidance for forest managers.

Connie’s work on climate adaptation, particularly with reference to fire and planning, has resulted in shifts in the U.S. Forest Service identity. Agency leaders regularly quote Connie’s work and rely on her to weave together various disciplinary ideas in a way that land managers can use. For this work, she received the Forest Service Chief’s Excellence in Science and Technology Award in 2013 for “developing and delivering scientific principles, partnerships, and actions for adaptation to climate change in national forests” and the 2016 Distinguished Science Award for “leadership and exceptional scientific productivity.”

Connie is an outstanding mentor. She works tirelessly to promote early-career, female, and minority voices in the Mountain Views newsletter she edits, as well in the many AGU sessions and MTNCLIM meetings she organizes.

Connie once remarked, “Interdisciplinary mountain research is for people who like steep learning curves.” Just as John Muir worked across disciplinary boundaries to establish protected mountain areas for future generations, so has Connie worked tirelessly to establish both the key science and the future talent pool to guide how we should manage and protect those areas through times of unprecedented change.

—Jessica Lundquist, University of Washington, Seattle


I send deepest thanks to my citationist, Jessica Lundquist, and the colleagues who supported my nomination. Their selflessness and willingness to prepare the nomination package humble me and bear witness to a genuine concern for our community of scientists. The honor of this award compels me to seek greater responsibilities in applying interdisciplinary science in novel ways to the challenges of land stewardship. Especially in mountain regions, complexities of terrain, climate, biodiversity, land use, and diverse stakeholder interests combine to create problems of a wicked nature. These require nimbleness, access to diverse and high-quality knowledge, and assertive action with uncertain outcomes. Where there is urgency for solutions, temptations may arise for scientists to overstep study results, adopt inappropriately alarmist attitudes, and communicate information beyond available data. Now more than ever we need to embrace strict objectivity in interpreting our research results and translating them faithfully into defensible approaches for land management. Where communities of practice emerge, such as our western North American mountain climate consortium, scientists and resource managers working together enforce reciprocal transfer of best available and transparent science in the context of environmental and management challenges. Involving students and young scientists in on-the-ground projects with resource staff provides valuable mutual benefits and serves to maintain realistic understanding and lessen risks in decision-making. For addressing problems of changing climate and related pressures on mountain landscapes, I am greatly encouraged and inspired by the courage, knowledge, and dedication of the rising generations of scientists who are committed to harnessing new knowledge for the protection and resilience of mountain ecosystems.

—Connie Millar, University of Washington, Seattle

Citation for Lixin Wu

Lixin Wu, winner of AGU’s 2019 Ambassador Award
Lixin Wu

Lixin Wu is widely recognized as a prominent leader in the field of multiscale ocean dynamics and climate change research. He pioneered the use of partial coupling systems (or model surgery) to unravel causative mechanisms operating in the complex oceanic and atmospheric feedback and subtropical-tropical linkage. He has made major original contributions to understanding the response of interannual, decadal, and interdecadal variability to greenhouse warming. He developed the first successful observation-based estimation of ocean mixing using high-resolution Argo floats in the Southern Ocean. He has discovered global warming “hot spots” along western boundary currents over the 20th century. His contribution has transformed the way we study these important issues.

While his scientific achievements are truly outstanding, his contribution to ocean sciences in enabling international collaboration is what makes him richly deserving of this Ambassador Award. The modern research landscape, science complexity, and limitation in resources present a plethora of challenges for scientists in any single country to tackle them alone, whether it is in the United States, China, or Australia. He initiated the Global Ocean Summit in 2014 to provide a regular platform for institutional leaders to enhance institutional coordination of global ocean observations. He launched a multidisciplinary research program known as “Transparent Global Oceans” in 2013 to build comprehensive observation systems for understanding ocean climate processes. “A Transparent Ocean” is now a goal of the United Nations Decade of Ocean Sciences. He established a workshop series, the International Symposium on Western Boundary Currents, that has been promoting interdisciplinary study of boundary current systems, particularly in a changing climate. He played a key role in the Northwestern Pacific Ocean Circulation and Climate Experiment, designed to observe, simulate, and understand the dynamics of the northwestern Pacific Ocean circulation and its climatic impact. More recently, Dr. Wu initiated the Centre for Southern Hemisphere Oceans Research, combining the research capability of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Qingdao National Laboratory for Marine Science and Technology, and Australian universities to study Southern Ocean climate variability and change, and the International Laboratory for High-Resolution Earth System Prediction, integrating the world-class capability of QNLM, Texas A&M University, and the National Center for Atmospheric Research, to better predict and project extreme weather in the present-day and future climate.

In summary, Dr. Wu’s sustained scientific accomplishments and influential leadership truly embody the code of a successful AGU ambassador. His contribution has had, and will continue to have, a substantial impact. He is an ideal and worthy recipient of AGU’s Ambassador Award.

—Weijian Zhou, Institute of Earth Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Xi’an


I am honored to receive the Ambassador Award on the 100th anniversary of the founding of AGU, and I am grateful to the Union for this recognition.

I started my career in physical oceanography after education in computational fluid dynamics. I have been fascinated by cross-scale interactions in the ocean and climate system, its complexity, and the pressing need to observe, understand, and predict its change in a concerted way. That fascination continues to be my motivation.

My first cruise was to the western Pacific in the summer of 2008 after a decade-long period of working on modeling and theoretical studies of ocean circulation and climate. The severe seasickness, over much of the cruise, provided a moment to think about integration of observations, theories, and predictions so that our ocean is more transparent. Soon after the cruise, we established observational networks in the western Pacific and started to build a “Transparent Ocean Community.” Now after a decade of progress, the community has become internationally famous, and the mission of Transparentizing Global Oceans echoes resonantly with the sustainable goal of the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science.

A Chinese proverb goes, “The ocean is vast because it admits all rivers.” To facilitate the implementation of Transparent Ocean, we have held a series of biennial Global Ocean Summits since 2014, in which leaders of major marine institutions and organizations meet and discuss global partnership for ocean observations. In part as an outcome of these summits, we have established two international centers, the Centre for Southern Hemisphere Oceans Research and the International Laboratory for High-Resolution Earth System Prediction, which create opportunities and a platform for Southern Ocean research and high-resolution Earth system modeling and prediction, respectively. These collaboration hubs help galvanize concerted efforts and encourage broader participation in the endeavor to build a community of shared future for mankind. As an AGU Ambassador Award honoree, I look forward to working with colleagues and partners to accomplish this great cause.

My sincere gratitude goes to Weijian Zhou, my nominator, and supporting colleagues, as well as my family, friends, and students. With your support, I feel a lot more can still be achieved.

—Lixin Wu, Ocean University of China, Qingdao; also at Qingdao National Laboratory for Marine Science and Technology, Qingdao, China


(2020), Basu, Ismail-Zadeh, Leinen, Millar, and Wu receive 2019 Ambassador Awards, Eos, 101, Published on 24 February 2020.

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